Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lucy Comes to Work

First it was the late alarm, then the falling back asleep after the late alarm. Then the dog running away. Then the kid forgetting to feed said dog. Then the car stuck in the garage. Then more snow. Unshoveled snow. Then the slip, slide off the porch. Then the lack of food in the fridge, my kid's other boot that "magically" went missing. Then no gloves on said kid. Then work. Ugh, work.

Alas, we (finally) drive away from our home which at that moment I felt like I might burn; just in time to meet my brother, who appeared from dust to take my child and shovel my snow. All smiley and nice.

Now this? Visitors at my office...my best-est friend in the world and her daughter, visitors? AND they even show up bearing gifts, and as if their mere presence is not enough, they stay awhile, play with my toys.

She's cute, Lucy with all my coffee stickers covering her face, don't you think?
I hope she comes back soon. It appears my people do not allow crappy crabby day before Christmas Eve days.

'Tis the season; I acquiesce.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Four Legged House Guests...and Those People They Come With

We love company, especially during these cold winter months where our snot freezes in our noses when we leave the house.

I love catching up with my people, the concept of adult conversation after 9 p.m., the chaos, cooking, cleaning up, the music, laughing, and allowing my kid to see a glimpse of my people in action.

One of the best parts of living back in the hometown is playing host to lots of friends as they pass through their college town on their way home for the holidays, or as they look for some respite from family during a visit. Some bring more suitcases than you can count. Some bring freshly caught crabs. Some bring wine. Some bring video games. Some bring new girlfriends or wives. They have little in common except one thing: none stay quite long enough, and lately lots of them have dogs.

Here are a few:

Bubba and Charlie: little do they know their loving slumber will soon be interrupted by a third lab, and soon after that, a baby. A human baby. :)
Pinot: doesn't sit still for long, and LOOOOOVES the underneath portion of cars, in particular in -20 degree temperatures.
Allie: only dog I ever had named after me. At least as far as I know of. She also digs Sunday Night football, barks LOUD for the Titans and Cyclones, and is annoyed by 5 a.m. Wii boxing.

Poor Marley: actually lives with us all the time, hates everyone but me/T, and somehow tolerates all these four legged guests without eating any of them, despite her momma and brother dressing her like this for no reason.
P.S. We do NOT under any circumstances do cats.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Weddings, Idiots, and Early Release

Ah, what a difference 24 hours makes! First yesterday, at about half past four there were the nuptials of two of my very best peeps. I will further expend details after they notify people who are related and such. But congrats, I love you both and look forward to sharing some more happy years and laughs with you!

Second, I received a text from my friend Donna this a.m. as she was on her way to work (in Seattle). She was stuck on the freeway, and was lamenting at the idiots in Seattle that cannot drive. Apprently they had a little snow, and many of them would make their way down the ramp onto the freeway, freak, and subsequently...TURN AROUND and drive backwards on the freeway.

A few minutes later, she texted again to report people leaving their cars and WALKING down the 520. There is a reason those Northwesterner's shut all things down when it snows and do not leave their houses. And this is precisely it.

I also received a couple thoughtful texts from another Northwest person who also happens to be and Iowa-bred teacher. The first, yesterday afternoon, lamenting at the 1 p.m. early release because of a little snow. Oh and the subsequent cancellation of school the following day to boot.

THEN, a follow up text from the local tequila bar. Things were not all that bad at that point I suspect. And then again this a.m. bragging up the 18...yes, 18 inches of powder Baker had received last night/this a.m. He was packing to drive up the mountain. Am I jealous? Insanely.

But we DO get early release, I just learned from the trusty Ames Community Schools Alert Texting System. Thank the maker. Short work day, short school day and it is sunny and lovely, no ice as predicted (yet). I hope the weather makers will once again be dead wrong and I can just enjoy the freedom. I love it when that happens. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Spinning My Wheels....

My Little A.D.D. Problem

I like to say that I have self-diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder. I may actually have it for all I know, but I have always been too distracted to go to some omniscient type and get a diagnosis.

Nonetheless, I fancy myself a "turn lemons into lemonade" type, so I somewhat enjoy my ability to adapt and juggle a bazillion things simultaneously. That said, there are some times it gets to be a bit much. I don't know if it is impending holidays, or the insane amounts of corn syrup and sugar that I am stuffing into my mouth with all the treats (read: BRIBES) that vendors keep dropping off in my office, but I am finding it more difficult than ever to focus.

There are all of a sudden WAY too many bright shiny electronic type things getting in the way. So, to clear my head...a totally random and partial listing of just a COUPLE of those bright shiny things:

1. The BestSeller and Recommended Reading lists on Powells.com:

I have been buying the bulk of my reading supplies from here for years, as it is the world's largest indy bookstore. I imagine one of the rooms of my own personal heaven looking a bit like this bookstore itself; aisle upon aisle of beautiful prose. Only I would never have to leave, I'd just have to pick a new book from time to time and curl up in a different chair.

2. The Nutrition and Exercise tracker on SparkPeople:

I became familiar with this (FREE) site several years ago when my former employer launched it as part of a wellness program for our team. I still use it fairly religiously as a log for all of my exercising and when I am eating healthfully, for my food. The databases are pretty amazing, and I like that it is not an all or none approach. You don't actually have to take advantage of ALL the whistles and bells to make it work for you. I track my protein to carb to fat ratio, a couple exercise goals and water consumption. I leave all the other whistles and bells behind, but a person could really create for themselves a customized community in order to accomplish weight/nutrition/exercise goals.

3. Facebook status updates:

Okay, admit me to Betty Ford now and just spare us all the agony of another day of my rambling about what I learned or saw on FaceCrack.

I am totally and completely addicted, not necessarily to Facebook, but to Facebook status updates. I talked frequently around election time about how fascinating it would be to engage in a research study (can you tell I work at a university?) on what was being said in Facebook status updates as it pertained to the election, and later the results.

I have watched people break up on status updates, get back together, and later, begin fighting. I have witnessed storms as they have snaked their way from my western based friends' homes to my own, and onward to my eastern-based friends. Fascinating stuff. Or not. Nonethelss, I am an addict and I should add, only a contributor with my own updates with infrequent regularity.

As you might well imagine, all hell pretty well broke loose when I figured out how to access these updates from my phone. I think I might have actually blushed in embarrasment last night when my phone practically yelled, "None of your friends have updates at this time!"

4. Closely but not so closely related to my status update addiction is Twitter:

I mean, seriously, how many more of these toys are out there? Too many more and I will just never work. At least this is what I said when I first heard of it shortly after its launch and promptly went on strike against even logging on to check it out.

For you newbies, essentially all Twitter is people writing one line about what they are doing. Um, a status update. Whatever. Another one? I'll take Facebook any day, I thought.

But then I read a story on, get this...Facebook, about someone hosting a party for all her "Twitter Friends." The next day she posted pictures of all these folks, arms around one another, beers in tow. "The Twitters Finally Meet" read the headline. You've got to be shitting me, I thought. What kind of geeks, I thought...

Well hells bells, they all looked NORMAL. Not a one in a Star Trek t-shirt. And then there was a Twitter ROMANCE I read about within that post.

So of course, I immediately log on and check Twitter out. Turns out Twitter has Lance Armstrong "twittering." I have never been a big Lance fan, but a quick run through his Twitters and I am astonished at how often he updates his um, "twitter." And I was also astonished at how much information I could glean from this guy on any given day about the general course of his life; his workouts, his foundation, his ex wife, his kids, friends, interviews, drug tests.

He actually updates the thing every few hours. From here, I could see just how insane the guy's schedule is on any given day, how many hours he's riding, with whom, and I think most interestingly, within seconds, EVERY time the drug lords come knocking, Lance Twitters. We are at 10 pees and counting, for those of you who are interested.

I have been simultaneously intrigued at the issues Lance seems to care about. I've checked out new bands, art exhibitions, articles, photographers, friends, and have also watched as he's single handedly gotten other cyclists Twittering.
You can find him (and links to all the things Lance loves) at: www.twitter.com/lancearmstrong

5. Photography sites:

I have a decent handful of friends who are insanely talented photographers. And through their blogs/websites I have learned of other blogs and have just been blown over first and foremost by the talented people I call my people, and secondly, I have been blown over by their work.

So I will dedicate a subsequent post to a collection of their sites, as I think it will be interesting to see them all together in one place, so I can brag them all up. In the meantime, however, I MUST highlight one site (not a friend) that I have watched religiously for months. Hamilton 365. This is such a simple idea, and I think a spectacular way to market a photography biz. It also helps that this guy is insanely talented. He recently moved to this town, Hamilton, and to help grow his business and also to familiarize himself with his town, he began posting one photograph a day of the faces he encountered around the community. Given that I am a literary sort, I also find it compelling that his one line of copy per photograph packs such a powerful punch.

It reminds me a bitof some of the Story Corp Project, or of the NPR This I Believe series. Only visual. And simple. And astoundingly beautiful.
6. One more and I quit...the oh so very EVIL to my pocketbook Campmor:
I am not much for dressing up. I mean, don't get me wrong, I drool over the Anthropologie site just as much as the next woman, but you won't find me shelling out $200 for a shirt that I will likely ruin when I accidentally wash it with my towels any time soon.
I will, however, drop insane amounts of money on a furry fleece, or a tent, or something else to enhance my level of comfort while working out, lounging, or just trying to avoid freezing my ass off. Campmor is it as far as bargain shopping for outdoorsy type clothes goes. It is WAY better than REI, way better than Title Nine, or Lucy (a couple other girly outdoorsy vices). And when I say way better, I do not mean prettier, as it is not pretty, it is ALL function. And it is CHEAP.
I would also argue that Campmor boasts the smartest marketing engine I've seen. That said, the Campmor website is a lot like it's black and white newprint catalog. No frills, but incredibly easy to use and SMART. The search function is amazing.

But be warned. You run a search for something as specific as Women's Down Jacket and you will receive about 50 emails within the next month telling you 1,000 reasons why you cannot live without the North Face, or Patagonia, or Mountain Hardware down coat that is ON SALE, tomorrow only!

This site will be the end of me. I love it. I also buy everyone in my family their Christmas presents on here every year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Something Lovely + Something To Think About

From the Power of Now:

"The reason why some people love to engage in dangerous activities, such as mountain climbing, car racing, and so on, although they may not be aware of it, is that it forces them into the Now- that intensely alive state that is free of time, free of problems, free of thinking, free of the burden of the personality. Slipping away from the present moment even for a second may mean death. Unfortunately, they come to depend on a particular activity to be in that state. But you don't need to climb the north face of the Eiger. You can enter that state now."

***Photographs are from a beautiful Salem, Oregon vineyard and are photographed my good friend Mike.

I have cool and talented friends. You should be insanely jealous.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It Is A Good Thing I Worked Three Jobs And Didn't Go On Welfare....

....because our government needed to save my money so they could give it to the auto industry. And after the auto industry they need my money to give to the banking industry, the insurance industry, and the mortgage industry.

And after the execs from those industries all fill their greedy palms with coins, for good measure maybe we can just continue the trend and and dip into that infinite stash o' cash and bail out the airline industry. And then maybe next we can reform the zoos of America because I heard the monkeys are really pissed off about their current living conditions. They actually want memory foam beds and food from local sources and we can just put our tax money to work for them too.

And then, maybe when that is all said and done we can pay off a few more mortgages, you know, those folks who have fallen behind since we started paying off the OTHER mortgages that have fallen behind and then finally, we can all just return to working for a living. Because the handouts, they cannot last forever...and shit, someone has to work!

This is only right it seems, as I have worked two and sometimes three jobs to avoid putting myself on welfare, government assistance and therefore qualification for any of such programs and I have twice, sold property to avoid being swept up by some morgtage crisis throughout the past fifteen years. I must be blessed with something these folks are not. Irish luck perhaps? Stellar financial prowness? I should just keep working for the man, right? Not roll over and give up? Refrain from feeling entitled to handouts because I am, cough, cough...better than that?

Given the circumstances I am having a difficult time NOT chalking myself up to some kind of financially savvy rocket scientist if these people truly need my money moreso than me. In fact, I fall into what is quite likely the most unlikely of statistical categories to NOT be an active part in creating this mess in the first place: single mother, employed, foreign car driving, graduate student, home owner, etc. And I am not in line nor do I stand to directly benefit from ANY handout, far as I can tell. Not bad considering I cannot balance my checkbook, if I do say so myself!

So go ahead, take my money, and give it to these folks...they surely DESERVE it and are ENTITLED to it more than me. And I'll just keep on working for the man. Whoever that fat assed, lazy, hand out seeking bastard is.

Yes, I am bitter.

No, I do not want to give my hard earned money to a bunch of people who make shitty cars.

No I do not intend to buy one of your shitty American cars because those cars break and they are gas guzzlers and they generally just suck, and had the American auto industry realized this and actually intended to compete globally like the free market we claim to have invented versus rubbing their collective bellies in wonderment as they built yet another gas guzzler, we would not be sitting smack in the middle of this shitty mess to begin with.

But I digress.

I have received these separate images from multiple people this a.m. and I think that we can all agree on one thing...it is a helluva lot more fun to laugh at this than it is to wrap our collective minds around how far we have truly fallen. So I leave you with this:

And this:
It is a good thing Jesus is having his Birthday Party here again soon, and that the Detroit breathren have their number already staked out as FIRST in line to the "party"...in line, of course, before the Germans, the Japanese, and all the other auto makers.

I hate to break it to you, but Jesus loves you and Jesus loves me, but he loves the American auto industry the MOST.

Monday, December 8, 2008

You Really Ought to Try Orphan Thanksgiving

In a previous post I described my family Thanksgiving...traditionally celebrated with our clan either the weekend before or after the actual Turkey Day, in order to accommodate "the other" side of the family. Well, seeing as how I have no "other" side of the family, I have taken this opportunity in mulitple years to both host my own Friend Thanksgiving...and also to orphan myself out to various friends' Thanksigivings. Sometimes I travel to exotic places too...but that is only when my friends are making the big bucks and fly me places because I am poor and cannot afford exotic vacations without such a windfall.

This year I orphaned myself. Keri graciously adopted me. T was off in Cali puking his guts out, so I was also orphaned AND flying solo for a few days. I arrived in Indy with nothing more than a small backpack of my belongings and two bottles of wine. Keri first loaded me into the car and drove me straight past the winery (damn!) and to one of the loveliest farms I've ever seen. It happens to be her Grandma's century farm just outside of Indianola.

The farm is situated among rolling hills and is pristine and has the original 100 year old house, barn, and a few outbuildings. The last time I was there I was struck not only by the beauty of the place but by the cats...it was like Rome, there were so many cats. Cats falling from the rafters in the barns, cats under the leaves of hostas, cats under the house, cats in the basement, cats...everywhere. And I am not a fan of cats. But this time, all but a few of the cats had moved onward (and I am guessing upward), and I was taken by the shiny new Field of Dreams-esque tennis court and the table decorations. I will get to that.

Once our outdoor century farm tour was complete, safely in the house, I found a feast fit for nearly 30 people. Except there were only 7 of us. Such is eating around these parts. Just a few minutes earlier as we strolled around her mom's newly constructed tennis and basketball and volleyball courts, we lamented at how nice it would be to go outside and shoot baskets after gorging ourselves. Except we never did.

I suspect the sleep apnea (which is another post for another day) we suffer from got the best of our short term memories and we forgot. We did, however, stick around long enough to pack up some leftovers (of course!) and I snapped a picture of these precious little Iowa inspired decorations, which were the centerpiece on her 92 year old (or is it 95??) Grandma's table:

It has been a really long time since I have seen a phallic corn stalk with braids and googley eyes. Needless to say, being the corn fed Iowa gal that I am, I was impressed. I was also impressed with the pipe cleaner turkeys. I mean, who knew that you could shove a few pipe cleaners into a pine cone and create your very own turkey?

Keri's Grandma told me she made all these treasures "years ago" which given her 90-some years, is pretty likely before pipe cleaners were even invented. She called the pipe cleaners something hilariously other than pipe cleaners ...but I'll be damned if I can remember what it was, so I probably just should have left that part out. Again, the apnea.

Those turkeys were active little buggers--they ran right out of this arrangement and situated themselves all around Ben's plate for the duration of our meal, much to her sweet Grandmother's dismay...or maybe it was delight. I couldn't tell, being that I've only met her twice. There is something about 'ole Benny that all the mom's like though...so I am sure the turkeys just gravitated there because they liked him.

After we washed dishes and drank up the last of her mom's wine, we ventured off Ben's family Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I was too caught up in the pie and the wine and the epic battle of Trivial Pursuit to remember to snap any pictures, but if I had, I am not sure it would have been appropriate to photograph our yelling and cheating our way through a four hour Thanksgiving Trivial Pursuit battle.

I bet you are suprised to know that the most world beauty pageant contestants come from Venezula out of ALL South American countries! In the end I am not even sure who won, but there was a lot of hooting and hollering and laughing in between the first and last questions. And there was also some cheating and throwing of pie shaped game pieces and some dancing and laughing and more laughing. Good times.

Then the next morning after we all stuffed ourselves with pancakes and eggs, we threw around footballs and ventured off in our pajamas and clogs to the batting cages to take some cuts. It has been 15 long years since I have hit softballs off a machine and I nearly had a heart attack and died. Afterwords, muscles ached that I am fairly certain had previously not seen use in 15 years, my hands were bleeding ...but holy moly, it was FUN and one helluva rush to hit the dogshit out of a few balls again.

I sure hope I get to be an orphan again soon. I am thankful for each of my three turkey days and for all the people that made them possible.

And I am especially thankful for each of the women who spearheaded the food making for these days, as having done it before myself, I know creating an atmosphere and also a meal of this caliber is a whole shitload of work and it is always, always done in a lickety-split sort of fashion that is somewhat of a letdown after so much preparation/work.

My Gym Sucks. I Want a Fancy Gym.

(photo is from www.equinoxfitness.com). I figured since I loved this place and said all these nice things that they might build one in my town and not get pissed at my thievery.

I have never had any grand complaints about my gym, aside from the fact that it at times, is somewhat dirty and I also have to pay a second gym in order to get my kicking and punching fix. That said, I had the opportunity this weekend to get a full experience at Old Towne Chicago's Equinox Gym. I took both a kickboxing and a spinning class on separate days and also took some time to enjoy the rest of what the facility has to offer. I now feel insanely jealous and am convinced I work out in a ghetto gym.

One More Cranksgiving Reflection

As I sat at the registration table for Cranksgiving 2008, I was introduced to a bevy of folks, most of which whose names I cannot recall. There are two people however, whom I will not soon forget. Their names are Rick and Paige Gerjets. According to my elder teammates, Paige and her dad Rick have been following the PRC website for some time, and her father Rick is a frequent commenter. Yet neither he nor his 13 year old daughter Paige had never met the team, so for this year’s Cranksgiving, Rick braved the elements and drove Paige all the way to Des Moines from Cedar Rapids.

Paige’s early interest and enthusiasm for cycling pretty much sum up why I am thrilled to be a part of PRC. It is not the training rides, the racing, the parties, the bikes, the uniforms that excite me. It is the idea of spreading like a bad case of the flu, the sport of cycling, in particular to women.

The sort of passion that Paige already clearly exhibits took years and years to cultivate within me. I was at a complete loss for female mentors, and for many years it was largely fear that kept me from jumping in to cycling on a broader scale/level. The idea that this could be completely averted or fast tracked and that….gasp, and then be very, very afraid…that I might even be seen as some sort of mentor for another cyclist is just plain exciting.

I wish that when I was thirteen, that my parents had recognized in my riding (and crashing) that there could be something that could grow from my passion, and if they had, I wish that there could have been a team of like-minded women yelling words of encouragement, and better yet, riding along beside me.

To Rick: You should be commended for recognizing and then encouraging your daughter in her passion. I am sure there were other things you wished to be doing in the midst of that snowstorm, but there you were, with a big ole smile.

To Paige: You go girl, ride on! And I promise you this…we WILL ride together at some point this season. If only I can catch you!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tell Me This....

Is there really any point in eating a salad when it looks like this? Or should I just order another lemon merangue tart and call it a day? And WHY do all my Blackberry pictures look like blurry shit? Oh, because there is some sort of cellophane on the back of my phone. Problem solved!